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Breaking Down the Denver Broncos' Cornerback Competition

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Breaking Down the Denver Broncos' Cornerback Competition
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, B/R's D.J. Siddiqi broke down the Denver Broncos running back situation.  Today, we'll look at the cornerback competition.

Going into the training camp, the team is currently carrying eight cornerbacks ranging from 14-year veterans to undrafted rookies.  Below, we take a look at those defensive backs.

 

Locks

Champ Bailey

Bailey was ranked as the 10th-best cornerback by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required for the link), earning a 12.0 grade from PFF.  Bailey earned an 8.7 coverage grade and a 3.7 grade against the run.

Although he has slowed down to some extent, Bailey is the most experienced cornerback on the team's roster.  He has lost his title as the most talented cornerback on the roster to the young defender listed below, but he is still the smartest and most important corner in Denver. 

 

Chris Harris Jr.

Harris was ranked fifth overall among cornerbacks by PFF in 2012, earning an 18.4 overall grade.  With a 10.5 coverage rating and a 7.7 grade against the run, Harris was by far the best cornerback on Denver's roster last season.

Going forward, Harris figures to see time both across from Bailey and covering the slot in nickel and dime packages.

 

Close Behind 

Omar Bolden

Bolden was ranked 143rd among PFF's 2012 cornerbacks rankings, earning a minus-1.7 overall rating, a minus-0.1 rating against the pass and an unrated grade against the run.  Although his numbers are not impressive, PFF had a small sample size to choose from and the Broncos like Bolden's chances of seizing more playing time going into 2013.

When asked in a postseason press conference in January if Bolden has the potential to become a starter, team executive vice president of football operations John Elway told the Denver Post, "You bet.  He's a fighter.  His comment to me was that he is going to come back for next season and take somebody's job."  

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Rodgers-Cromartie was PFF's 98th-ranked cornerback, earning a minus-7.1 overall grade, a 2.9 grade against the pass and a minus-4.6 grade against the run in 2012.  DRC is an athletic defensive back who blows coverage nearly as often as he makes big plays.

In DRC, the Broncos have an aggressive cornerback who will record a few interceptions, but may need to tone down his aggressiveness in order to not be beaten repeatedly by pass-heavy offenses.  His experience gives him an edge over some of the younger corners on the roster.

 

Up and Coming 

Tony Carter

Carter took advantage of his limited opportunities in 2012 after Tracy Porter missed time due to seizure-like symptoms.  A talented rotational defensive back, Carter has a lot of potential but is not ready for starting responsibilities just yet. 

 

Kayvon Webster

Webster was drafted in the third round by the Broncos in April and has been dubbed a "reach" by 99 percent of draftnicks.  But the Broncos like his physical play, a skill set that could help him earn playing time in the slot early in his career. 

Young and Inexperienced 

Aaron Hester and Mario Butler

Hester, a cousin of Devin Hester, signed with the team as an undrafted free agent after the draft, as did Butler.  The two youngsters will compete to earn roster spots as special team's players this summer.

Final Projections

In each of the last two seasons, the Broncos have carried five cornerbacks.  This year, it will be hard to carry any fewer than six.

The top four cornerbacks listed are all but guaranteed to make the roster and Denver is not parting ways with Webster and do not want to see Carter playing anywhere else.  That's already six and the team will surely want to see what Hester and Butler have to offer.

A possible solution is carrying Hester and Butler on the practice squad (but they can be signed to another team's active roster from there).  Alternatively, Carter seems to be the odd man out if the team has to cut one of the returning corners.

Expect up to six cornerbacks to make Denver's final 53-roster.  Watch for a fierce competition at the position during training camp this summer.

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